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economy

3 Things You Should Know – CARES Act

By | 2020, Money Moxie | No Comments

Back in March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed. It was designed as a stimulus bill that would provide relief and assistance to millions of Americans affected by the pandemic. Here are three things you should know about the CARES Act.

No Required Minimum Distributions for 2020
This year, you will not have to take out a required minimum distribution from your qualified retirement accounts. The waiver for this year also includes any inherited retirement accounts.

We know many of our clients also like to take advantage of qualified charitable distributions to donate their required distributions directly from their IRAs to a charity, tax-free. If you are over age 70 ½, you can still do this in 2020. It may even be advantageous for you to donate money from your IRA to a charity. This year, since you won’t be required to take money out, it will require more evaluation than in previous years to determine if it is still beneficial for you.

Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment benefits have been expanded, and individuals will be eligible for an additional $600 weekly benefit through July 31, 2020. Additionally, individuals will also have 13 weeks of federally funded benefits through 2020 for people who exhaust their state benefits. Another added benefit from the CARES Act is for people who would not normally qualify for unemployment benefits like independent contractors, part-time workers, and self-employed individuals. They will now also be eligible for benefits.

Penalty-free Withdrawals from Retirement Accounts
The 10% early-distribution penalty tax that normally applies to distributions made before age 59 ½ is waived for distributions up to $100,000 relating to Coronavirus. You must be impacted by COVID-19 for the waiver to apply; this would include being diagnosed with Coronavirus, being unable to work due to lack of child care available, or being furloughed, laid off, or have reduced hours.

While you will still have to pay income tax on any withdrawal, you’ll be able to spread the payment of those taxes over three years. If you decide to repay the withdrawal back into your account within three years, you will not owe income tax, and it will not be counted toward yearly contribution limits.

*Remember to speak to one of our wealth advisors before making the decision to tap into your retirement account.

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What You Need to Know About the CARES Act

By | 2020, Newsletter | No Comments

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) stimulus bill was passed. It will provide relief and assistance to millions of Americans affected by the pandemic. This article will highlight some of the most important parts of the recently passed bill.

No Required Minimum Distributions for 2020

This year you will not have to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your qualified retirement accounts. The waiver for this year also includes any inherited IRAs or 401ks. RMDs are calculated based on your account value on December 31st of the previous year. Last year was a great year for the stock market, meaning your 2020 RMD was based on your account value at the end of a great year when the Dow was around 28,000.

With the recent events due to COVID-19, the market has taken a tumble, and you would now be forced to take money out at a low point, which is the opposite of what you want to do when investing. No RMDs in 2020 can end up being helpful for many retirees and could save them money on their taxes this year.

If you already took your RMD for this year, you won’t benefit from the waiver, but there is a bright side. You probably took your distribution when the market was at a high point, and that is a good thing.

We know many of our clients also like to take advantage of qualified charitable distributions to donate their required distributions from their IRA to a charity, tax-free. If you are over age 70 ½, you can still do that this year and it may still be advantageous for you to donate money from your IRA to a charity. This year, since you won’t be required to take money out, it will require more evaluation than in previous years to determine if it is still beneficial for you.

Payments to Individuals

Most individuals will receive a direct payment from the federal government. This is technically a refundable tax credit for 2020. It will be based on 2019 taxes (2018 if you haven’t filed yet). You must have a Social Security number and not qualify as a dependent of another individual.

The amount is $1,200 per adult plus $500 for each qualifying child under age 17. Rebates will be phased out for those with adjusted gross income above $75,000 ($150k if married filing jointly, $112k if filing as head of household). The rebate will be reduced by $5 for every $100 in income over the threshold.

Unemployment Benefits

Individuals will be eligible for an additional $600 weekly benefit through July 31, 2020. Additionally, individuals will have 13 weeks of federally funded benefits through 2020 for people who exhaust state benefits.

People who would not normally qualify for unemployment benefits like independent contractors, part-time workers, and self-employed individuals will be eligible for benefits.

Penalty-free Withdrawals from Retirement Accounts

The 10% early-distribution penalty tax that normally applies to distributions made before age 59 ½ is waived for distributions up to $100k relating to coronavirus. While you’ll still have to pay income tax on any withdrawal, you’ll be able to spread the payment of those taxes over three years. If you decide to repay the withdrawal back into your account within three years, you will not owe income tax, and it will not be counted toward yearly contribution limits.

*Remember to speak to your financial advisor before deciding to tap into your retirement account.

No Charitable Contribution Limits for 2020

For those who itemize deductions, this act suspends charitable contribution limits for 2020. To benefit from this, you need to donate to a qualified charity and not a donor-advised fund. Usually, deductible contributions are capped at 60% of your adjusted gross income, but the new bill allows you to deduct 100% of the contribution.

Student Loans

If you have a student loan held by the federal government, you will automatically get a six-month payment suspension (ends September 30, 2020), and interest will not accrue during that time.

If you have any questions about how this stimulus bill will affect you, please reach out to us, and we will be happy to help you!

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Federal Reserve Is Expecting Winter In July

By | 2019, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Last February, St. George, Utah had its biggest snowstorm in 20 years. Nearby, Zions National Park closed. Local schools did a late start. Motorists on the freeway were asked to use snow chains. The storm total? 3.8 inches! So, not that much . . . if one is prepared.

Without a doubt, the greatest risk in such a situation is overconfidence. The same could be said about investing. And even though it is summer, the Federal Reserve is going to start spreading salt on the roads for wintery conditions.

As I write, the Fed is preparing for its 5th meeting of 2019, which will be held July 30th–31st. The overwhelming majority of experts believes the Fed will lower interest rates for the first time in a decade. It would do this to encourage greater borrowing and give the economy a boost.

Celebrating a rate decrease this July is like increasing your speed on a sunny day while the snowplow drivers are starting their engines. Why are the plows heading out?

The U.S. economy has been growing at just over 2 percent for a decade. Tax cuts provided a short-term bump, but it looks like the growth is headed right back to the 10-year trend. That’s not so bad, but it has the Fed nervous.

If the Fed lowers rates at the end of this month, it is sending a signal to the rest of us that the experts believe there may be some rougher weather ahead. They will be dropping the salt on the roads in anticipation. Only time will tell how the forecast and driving conditions will change.

Are you driving too fast for the conditions with your investments? Stocks and bonds have been wildly positive this year, which has some investors too excited. Most of these gains just brought market prices back to where they were before a negative overreaction last December. That drop has had a lasting impact on how most investors feel. In other words, the market data is neither hot nor cold right now, but investors are too focused on one or the other. So, when it comes to your investments, I recommend going the speed you and your advisor decided on in your last review.

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Diversifying Your Investments May Lead To Better Outcomes

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Viewpoint | No Comments

Is this as good as the U.S. economy is going to get? This is the question investors have been asking as storm clouds have settled over the stock market. During all this commotion, a silver lining can be seen with a strategy that may be helpful.

The paradigm shift for stocks, which began in October, is reminiscent of a change in early 2000 when a positive run for technology stocks abruptly ended. Unnoticed by some in 2000, the economy was still growing and a rotation of leadership in the stock market presented investors with new opportunities. This is where diversification can help.

Take a look at the graphic below. Diversification lost when the market lost and made less when the market gained. Despite these disappointing facts, the diversified portfolio would have made more money!

Why does diversification make a difference?

  1. Limiting your losses helps.
  2. No one knows when the market will rise or fall, so any strategy attempting to capture the up and avoid the down is unlikely to do well.
  3. While there is no way to accurately predict the future of any one company, the market tends to rise over long periods of time – making losses temporary for those who stay diversified and invested.

As the storms arise, think of diversification as your umbrella. You may still get a little wet, but it will help. Your long-term perspective and optimism will help you hang on until the sun shines – and it will shine again.

The new year will continue to bring many opportunities for investors, especially with positive economic growth. There are no guarantees, but the current forecast calls for a 2.5 percent increase.

*Diversification History data provided by Blackrock. Diversified portfolio consists of 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds. The S&P 500 is often used to represent the U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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Your Leading Indicators

By | 2018, Executive Message, Money Moxie | No Comments

Dear Financial Partners and Friends!

Leading economic indicators are predictive changes that give us clues about the future direction of the economy. Lagging indicators are after the fact. They confirm what has already happened.

Just as the economy has leading and lagging indicators, so does your personal financial preparedness. Regardless of your age, or alternatively, your personal lifecycle, ask yourself where you are in the following questions.

  1. Do you have a three-to-six-month emergency fund that matches your net income?
  2. Are you free of all debt?
  3. If you were to die suddenly, would your family have enough money to live now and through retirement?
  4. Do you have enough money saved for retirement? (See graph below.)
  5. Are the beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc., the way you desire?
  6. Have you created will(s) and trust(s) and ensured they are up to date?

If you answered “Yes,” to all of these leading indicators, then you are financially prepared for the future. If you answered “Yes,” to most of these, then you are on the right path. If you answered “No,” to most of these, then you should take immediate action. Please come and talk with one of our expert wealth managers who have the experience, credentials, and training to get you to and through your retirement years.

So many changes can take place within a year’s time, that when it comes to your personal finances, it is better to be safe than sorry. The most important people in your life depend on you. Will they be harmed or helped by your preparation or lack thereof?

Bullish Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
CEO

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Lessons of the Great Recession

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

In January 2008, stock markets were near all-time highs, U.S. unemployment was at just 5 percent, and George W. Bush was about to sign the Economic Stimulus Act, which provided tax rebates for Americans and tax breaks for businesses. Americans were unaware that the “Great Recession” had already begun (National Bureau of Economic Research).

The consequences of excessive debt began to slowly spread across corporate America. Several companies were on the brink of failure before being saved, including Bear Stearns (March 2008), Countrywide Financial (July 2008), Freddie Mac (September 2008), and Fannie Mae (September 2008). Each of these was saved by unpopular government intervention.

Then came Lehman Brothers. It was “too big to fail,” and yet it did. At 1:45 AM on September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection—the largest and most complex bankruptcy in American history. It had over $619 billion in loans it could not repay and it marked a tipping point: a moment when investors around the world woke up to reality.

There was too much debt, especially American mortgage debt. In 2008, over 800,000 families lost their homes to foreclosure.1 In 2009, there were around 2.5 million.2 Unemployment doubled to a rate of 10 percent.3

The cost of recovery weighed on the government as it shifted the debt from overburdened Americans to the U.S. deficit (Now over $21 trillion).
The Federal Reserve lowered its rates to zero and kept them there for seven years. When that was not enough, it purchased $4.5 trillion dollars of debt—essentially injecting the American economy with money. It seems to have worked by many measurements.

As the economic recovery firmed, the Federal Reserve began to raise rates. At first, it was cautious. Now, it plans to keep going higher at regular intervals. This change may be an important shift.

One day in the future there will be another recession, but it will be different than the Great Recession.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years. Americans have less mortgage debt. The government has much more. While the housing market is strong, it does not seem to be as inflated as 2008.

For now, move forward with optimism and confidence, but don’t forget the lessons of the past. The risk of another economic downturn is real. Whether it comes in 1 year or 10 years, your personal preparation will be valuable.

 

1. “Foreclosures up a Record 81% in 2008,” CNN Money
2. “Great Recession Timeline,” History.com
3. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
4. “Looking Back at Lehman’s Demise,” Wealth Management

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Just In Case You Missed It

By | 2018, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Dear Financial Partners and Friends!

How is the U.S. economy really doing? Here are a few quotes and facts regarding the past, the present, and the future.

The Past: “We Ran Out of Words to Describe How Good the Jobs Numbers Are,” (“The Upshot,” Neil Irwin, The New York Times, June 1, 2018.)

The Present: The U.S. economy jumped to an annualized rate of 4.1 percent GDP in the second quarter of 2018. That’s almost double the first quarter’s rate of 2.2 percent. This is the fastest rate of growth since 2014. This is great news for all of us!

The Future: The following quotes are from Elizabeth MacDonald’s, “Evening Edit,” Fox Business News, July 19, 2018. MacDonald said,“(Here are) CEO commitments for more jobs over the next 5 years.”

FedEx®: “FedEx® will train or reskill 512,000 people over the next 5 years.”

General Motors®: “General Motors® is proud to offer 10,975 workforce training opportunities.”

The Home Depot®: “The Home Depot® is pleased to provide enhanced training and opportunities for 50,000 associates.”

Raytheon®: “Tom Kennedy from Raytheon® and we pledge 39,000 enhanced career opportunities.”

The U.S. economy is doing well. As a result, most Americans are doing well. Remember this: Your financial success is our passion and our mission at Smedley Financial.

Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
CEO

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Why We Are Watching Oil In 2018

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

Despite record U.S. oil production, the price of a barrel has been climbing in 2018. The ripple effects can and will be seen throughout the economy in the coming months.

The average price of regular gasoline in the United States is nearly $3.00 per gallon. One year ago, it was $2.35.1 That’s a 25 percent increase at a time when few expected such a rise.

Most Americans spend between 2 and 4 percent of their income on gasoline,2 so the direct impact on our spending may not seem like a big deal at first.

Americans, accustomed to the lower prices over the last couple years, have also been buying larger and larger cars.

We should also remember that oil is a major ingredient in many products we purchase (as illustrated in the adjacent graphic). While U.S. supply is growing, it has fallen globally.

Oil prices are still far from their all-time high of $136.31 in June of 2008. The domino effect of rising prices has also not been a major concern yet.

Global oil supply is the wildcard. If it increases (a real possibility), prices are unlikely to rise significantly. If it falls, rising prices may spread. Eventually, it could impact our spending.

Remember, consumers, drive 70 percent of the economy. So, if we cut back in our spending then the U.S. economic engine may slow as well. That’s why we are watching oil more closely in 2018.

**************************

(1) GasBuddy.com
(2) U.S. Energy Information Administration
*Research by SFS. Graphic from Visual Capitalist. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon
changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

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2017 A Banner Year! Where to from Here?

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

The following is quoted from WealthTrack with Consuelo Mack.

“For answers about the 2018 stock market (S&P 500) we turn to Ed Hyman, Founder, Chairman, Head of Economic Research at Evercore, ISI, a top-ranked macro and investment firm. Hyman was voted #1 Wall Street Economist by Institutional Investor’s survey of professional investors for an incredible 37 years. His comprehensive, but succinct and easily digestible daily macro research is considered a must-read by professional investors.”

“To understand where we are growing, it helps to understand where we have been. A central thesis of Hyman’s is that the stock market drives economic activity. Since 1968–that’s a 50-year stretch–the S&P 500 has increased 20 percent or more only 12 times. Last year (2017) it came within a hair of doing so with its 19.4 percent gain.”

“In 10 of those 12 times, the economy was strong the following year. Taking out the effects of inflation, real GDP increased 2.7 percent or more. So 83 percent of the time economic activity was robust. The average for the 12 years after market advances of 20 percent or more was 3.4 percent real GDP growth.”

“The S&P 500 last year had another distinction. According to Hyman’s team, 2017 was the first year ever that the S&P 500 posted positive total returns–that’s including dividends–every month. The previous closest perfect year was 1995, which had only one down month. The market that year (1995) was up 34 percent. The following year (1996) it gained 23 percent, dividends included, and real GDP was a gang buster 4.5 percent.”

Bullish Best Wishes in 2018,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
CEO

The S&P 500 is widely considered to represent the U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of
the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon changing conditions. This is not
a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

Source: WealthTrack, Episode #1429, Broadcast January 5, 2018

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Confidence is up, but will it lift the economy higher?

By | 2017, Money Moxie | No Comments

Looking at performance of the stock market over the last 12 months, one might assume that the economy is exploding upward. The rise has been driven mostly by a boost in consumer sentiment, which has taken off since the U.S. elections in November.

In 2017, consumer sentiment hit its highest level in more than 10 years!

Consumers represent 70 percent of the U.S. economy. Their confidence is crucial to future growth. Business spending is much smaller, but it is also much more volatile. So, when businesses are increasing their spending, the economy really has potential to move up. The good news is that optimism is also up for business executives.

Confidence data is nothing more than opinion polls. This is why they are referred to as soft data. Hard data represents real action. Typically, these go hand-in-hand: A change in one leads to a corresponding change in the other.

After inflation, consumer spending is up, but just by 2.8 percent.
The trend in the hard data does not match that of the soft data. The Federal Reserve does not seem concerned.

The Fed raised rates last December and March. Expectations are nearly 100 percent that it will raise them again in June–despite first quarter economic growth of 0.7 percent.

How does one reconcile the gap between opinion polls and actual improvement? What is likely to happen?

The U.S. economy is still improving. Unemployment is down to 4.4 percent. Corporate profits are up. Energy prices are down. Finally, global growth appears to be entering its first synchronized period of growth in two decades. According to BlackRock, European earnings are up nearly 20 percent in the last year.

Add to this good news the potential for positive surprises and it becomes more clear why a glass-is-half-full perspective is better.

  • Soft data could finally lift hard data
  • Increased global trade will help U.S. companies
  • Wages should rise with tight labor market
  • Deregulation could create more opportunities
  • Corporate tax reform may boost profits
  • Infrastructure spending could boost productivity

Any one of these surprises could help convert optimism into action. The timing is the greatest uncertainty, but that is no reason to be overly concerned. With so many positive economic changes occurring in the world right now, we believe there are plenty of opportunities
in 2017.

 

*Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The S&P 500 index often represents the U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based on market and other conditions, and should not be construed as a recommendation of any specific security or investment plan. SFS is not affiliated with any companies mentioned in this commentary.

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